Log in

Polk County Master Gardeners

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in Polk County

Log in

Pathway to our future

After nearly thirty years at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, our Discovery Garden was in need of renovation. Our proudest accomplishment is a hardscape pathway, which provides easier and safer access to those with disabilities and assists in nutrient load reductions to water resources. Other renovation phases include: a gazebo and shade structure upgrade, hardscape edging around our perennial bed garden, educational signage, along with project funding partners and donor signage,  and new perimeter fencing. An urban conservation project continues in our Native Perennial garden where we introduced rain garden plant materials to further reduce our nutrient load and runoff.

The significance and value of this renovation project is the unique opportunity to educate tens of thousands of people on new ways to manage rainfall, reduce runoff and pollutant delivery to receiving waters with permeable pavement and how the home gardener may adopt this practice. The pathway materials offer an opportunity to educate the home gardener on how to use recyclable and plant- based materials for their pathways. 


    • 5,000 square feet of Filter Pave Stone Series material
    • Crushed regional stone
    • Recycled glass
    • Plant-based polymer binding material
    • 40,000 bottles, or 5 tons, of crushed glass kept out of our landfills
    • The glass is specially processed to round the edges and is bonded with a flexible bonding agent, safe for marine and plant life


Pervious paving allows water to infiltrate into layers of crushed stone below the paving and then into the soil and groundwater below. By infiltrating most of the storm water on-site, the amount of water and pollution flowing into storm sewers and directly to rivers and streams is greatly reduced. This, in turn, protects water quality, maintains more stable base flows to streams, reduces flood peaks and reduces stream bank erosion. With infiltration, groundwater is recharged and streams are replenished with cool, clean groundwater in a more natural way.

Pervious paving:

    • protects local and regional water quality by reducing sediment, nutrients and other pollutants
    • reduces stream bank erosion by controlling surges from storm sewers after rain
    • stabilizes stream levels by restoring groundwater recharge into streams
    • may reduce potential for flooding


The environmentally friendly pervious paving in our pathway allows rainwater infiltration onto stable and firmly fixed surfaces. Rainwater is absorbed quickly and can seep directly into the ground or be redirected into a drainage facility (e.g. canal, retention basin, or rain water storage vessel). It also absorbs hydrocarbons such as engine and gear oil and fuel residues. The risk of freeze-thaw damage and the need to repair cracks and replace wear is greatly reduced when compared to conventional pavements.

Our Native Perennial garden bed features rain garden plant materials which further reduce our nutrient load and runoff. Many native plants work best in a rain garden and seedlings are easier to establish than direct-sown seed so you don't have to worry about the seed washing away. For that reason, native plant plugs work better than seeds. The Discovery Garden used native grasses and sedges in the Native Perennial bed garden because those plants possess extremely deep root systems.

In addition to rain garden plant materials, you will see attractive plantings throughout the Discovery Garden which promote and increase pollinators and beneficial insects in our garden beds. The beneficial insects, also known as the “good bugs”, perform valued services like pollination and pest control. To attract the “good bugs”, you may want to plant a row or border of fennel, calendula, coriander, dill, and cosmos which are all considered good plants for attracting beneficial insects.


The Discovery Garden at the Iowa State Fairgrounds’ Renovation Project would not be possible without these generous contributors. Project funders and donors are recognized on permanent, on-site signage at the Discovery Garden, and the Discovery Garden's Facebook page. Thanks to the generosity of these individuals, companies, corporations, organizations and foundations for making the Discovery Garden Pathway to the Future a success! Thank you!

$10,000 and up

Blue Ribbon Foundation

Gabus Family Foundation

Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS)

Urban Conservation Grant

Iowa State Fair

Prairie Meadows

$ 5,000 to $ 10,000

Alliant Energy Foundation

Board of Supervisors Polk County

Robert Brownell, Angela Connolly, Tom Hockensmith,

John F. Mauro, Steve Van Oort

$ 1,000 to $ 5,000

Anderson Erickson Dairy

Des Moines East & South Chamber of Commerce

Eric J. Faust

Hy-Vee Corporation

Iowa Farm Bureau

Iowa Pork Producers

Jean and Harvey Koch

Metro Waste Authority

Mid-American Energy Foundation

Family of Paul and Margie Rosenberry

West End Architectural Salvage

Friends and Family of Michael Whitfield

Friends of the Discovery Garden

Amy M. Alexander

Elizabeth A. Alexander

Association of Iowa Fairs, Inc.

Bette and Elliot Bell

Nancy and Frank Bodine

Roddy and Dean Brand

Mary Brown Mehalovich

Sue Cornick

Tracy L. Corsello

Kathleen DeCarlo

Lynn Ethington

Gerry and Fredrick Fuller

Katherine Howsare

Jon Hrabe

Hummel's Nissan

Iowa Heart Foundation

ISU Extension and Outreach Office-Polk County

Kirke Financial Services-Wild Rose Entertainment

William C. Knapp Charitable Foundation

Meredith Corporation Foundation

Stephanie McAdam

Karen McGregor

Christine K. Page

Jean and Rudy Roe

Jolene Runkel

Patrick J. Schmitt

RS Welding Studio, Artist Randy Schnebbe

Jerry Swinton

Marje and Nels Turnquist

Contact Us
Office: 515-957-5768

ISU Extension and Outreach, Polk County:
1625 Adventureland Dr.
Suite A | Altoona, IA 50009

This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to  

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software